Since Aug. 11, the IU football program practiced without a guarantee it would return to the field due to the coronavirus pandemic. But IU head coach Tom Allen said Wednesday the players had a different bounce in their step.
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors unanimously voted Wednesday to restart the conference’s football season the weekend of Oct. 23 and 24. Starting Sept. 30, the league will provide daily COVID-19 testing for its programs’ players and staff.
However, IU football will begin daily testing Thursday using resources from the university until the end of September.
“The rapid antigen testing that we are now requiring was a game changer,” Allen said Wednesday on a Zoom call. “It’s completely changed from where we were at five weeks ago. We didn’t have that in place and weren’t even planning on having that in place for the season at the time.”
Test results must be recorded before the start of every practice and game for the remainder of the season, and players who test positive must wait 21 days before returning to practice. Players must also be cleared by a designated cardiologist after being subject to labs and biomarkers, echocardiogram and a cardiac MRI due to concerns about myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle as a result of viral infections. The Big Ten will use test results to monitor each team’s positivity rate throughout the year.
College football is heading into its third week of the 2020 season and when the Big Ten season begins, it will join the rest of the country by implementing a condensed, eight-game regular-season schedule.
Schedules have not been released yet, but the Big Ten Championship game is set for Dec. 19. On that date, all teams will play an extra cross-division game that features equally seeded teams from both divisions playing each other. Allen said the idea was suggested by Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Big Ten will complete its regular season before the Dec. 20 selection for the College Football Playoff, and Allen confirmed the conference’s teams will also be eligible for bowl games barring further postponements or cancellations.
“The team that manages the best, that shows the most maturity and is able to stay the healthiest is going to have the best season,” Allen said. “We have to be that team.”
For now, the team is waiting for confirmation from the Big Ten that its weekly practice schedule will increase from 12 hours to 20 hours. Allen said no players have decided to opt-out of the season and they are focused on the weeks ahead.
Allen said he doesn’t quite know what next week will look like yet, but the program and its players are moving ahead with scheduled practices for the remainder of this week.
“I just think they’re relieved,” he said.
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